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2011, The Preview: A Look At The Year Ahead For Tottenham Hotspur

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Pato could be healthy again for A.C. Milan's Champions League tie against Spurs
Pato could be healthy again for A.C. Milan's Champions League tie against Spurs

Salutations CFC Nation, and welcome to 2011. Last week I took a look back at the year that was in 2010, and now I'll be taking a look ahead at some challenges and key matches that will be instrumental to Spurs' success in 2011.

Charlton Athletic, FA Cup; Jan. 9 (home)

It seems like this would be a throwaway match with the Premiership and Champions League as the top priorities, but Harry might be looking to feature his surplus players in this match (aka putting them in the shop window). This would allow regular starters (Bale, Lennon, Modric) a chance to get some rest up before the January 16 match against Manchester United, give wantaway players (Kranjcar, Bentley, Keane) a chance to boost their value during the transfer window (aka more money for the squad) and give some players returning from injury (Dawson, Corluka) a chance to gain match fitness.

Sunderland; Feb. 12 (away)

Don't look now; the Black Cats are currently sitting sixth on the table with 30 points, five points behind Chelsea and only six points behind us. Keeping points against opponents that sit in the middle of the table are going to be key in the second half of the season (such as Blackpool, Liverpool, Stoke City and Newcastle) as well as securing maximum points against cellar dwellers (Birmingham, Wigan and West Ham United).

This game should provide an interesting mix of players, seeing as the squad will be playing a crucial Champions League game three days later. Speaking of...

A.C. Milan; Feb. 15 (away) & March 9 (home)

Why wouldn't this be a big deal? Knock out round of the Champions League, playing one of the legendary European clubs? Not to be a homer, but I really think Spurs have a great chance of advancing this round.

Why? Milan has numerous starters that are north of age 30 (Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo) and plays an attacking 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. The formation should allow Tottenham to be able to counter attack, since the players play more forward than covering both ends of the pitch and the defense is not as strong. Winning these two matches on aggregate means a spot in the semi-finals.

Arsenal; Feb. 26 (home)

A season sweep of the Gooners would be a great achievement in its own right. After falling behind 2-0 at the half earlier this season at the Emirates, lets hope the squad shows up from the first whistle and gets the three points, not only for the sake of the North London Derby but also to maintain points in a tight league race.

Manchester City; April 16 (away) & Chelsea; April 30 (away)

Similar to last season, Spurs will have rough matches to close out the season. If they've taken care of business leading up to these games (winning games they should win) then these two contests won't have the added pressure of beating both strong opponents away. If the team is looking to pick up points when these contests are going to happen, they have the potential of being gigantic clashes. Either way, picking up late season points against both foes are crucial.

What is the most important game in your eyes the second half of the season? Which fixtures are you most looking forward to?